IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Measures aimed at making it easier for some applicants to obtain Canadian citizenship will take effect this month.

What does the change mean? The changes will ease requirements on how long a person must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship and will end language and knowledge requirements for applicants younger than 18 or older than 54.

  • Implementation time frame: The changes will take effect Oct. 11.
  • Visas/permits affected: Canadian citizenship.
  • Who is affected: Applicants for Canadian citizenship, specifically those who have been physically present in Canada for three out of the previous five years or are younger than 18 or older than 54 when they apply for citizenship.
  • Next steps: Those applying for Canadian citizenship under the new criteria should submit applications on or after Oct. 11, when the new provisions take effect.

Key changes: The changes to Canada’s citizenship rules will touch on the following areas.

  • Physical presence in Canada. Applicants must be physically present in Canada for three of the previous five years at the time of their application. The previous requirement was that applicants be physically present in Canada for four of the previous six years.
  • Tax filing requirements. Applicants must have filed income taxes (if so required under Canadian law) in three of the past five years. The previous requirement was that applicants must have filed taxes in four of the previous six years.
  • Required time in Canada for each year of residence. A rule that required applicants to be in Canada for at least 183 days for each of the years that counted toward their citizenship application has been abolished.
  • Time in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident. Applicants will be able to count time in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person as time during which they were physically present in Canada. Each day an applicant spent in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person will count as a half day for citizenship purposes. This credit is available up to a maximum of 365 days in the five years immediately preceding the application date. Previously, only time spent in Canada as a permanent resident counted toward citizenship.
  • Language and knowledge requirements. Applicants younger than 18 or older than 54 will not be subject to the standard language and knowledge requirements. Previously, this exemption was only available to applicants younger than 14 and older than 64.

Background: The changes described above will be implemented under Bill C-6, which amended the Citizenship Act and received Royal Assent on June 19. Some changes took effect in June, including repealing the government’s ability to revoke citizenship from dual citizens convicted of committing crimes against the national interest, scrapping a provision that required applicants to continue residing in Canada upon receiving citizenship, and making it easier for minors without Canadian parents to apply for citizenship. Additional changes are set to take effect in 2017 and 2018, including making federal courts the final arbiter in all cases involving the revocation of citizenship and establishing clear authority for citizenship officers to seize documents they suspect to be fraudulent.

BAL Analysis: The latest set of amendments to Canada’s citizenship law will ease residency requirements for those applying for citizenship. They will also waive knowledge and language requirements for a greater number of younger and older applicants. Those who intend to take advantage of the new provisions can do so beginning Oct. 11.